Teenage goddess to pursue banking career

What's a girl to do when she's not a living goddess anymore? Apparently aim for a career in finance:

Chanira Bajracharya, 15, has been the Kumari or “living goddess” of Patan, an ancient town south of Kathmandu, for nine years, blessing devotees at the temple and riding in decorated chariots 18 times a year during Hindu and Buddhist festivals.

Now, with her time as living goddess drawing to a close — the young virgin deities retire on reaching puberty — Bajracharya is contemplating a career in banking if she makes grades good enough to study commerce or accounting.

Last week she became the first living goddess ever to take the school leaving certificate examination, which was administered to her in her temple, which is housed in her home.

“I want to study commerce or accounting and be engaged in the banking sector,” she told Reuters in a rare interview, dressed in her ceremonial costumes, her eyes rimmed in black kohl and a third eye painted in the middle of her forehead.

Despite the attention, being a goddess doesn't sound like much fun. Bajracharya isn't allowed to attend school or mingle with other children and says she has no friends her age. She receives only about $20 a month for her services. A Nepalese Supreme Court order in 2008 forced the temple to provide the Kumaris with education and medical care.

Hopefully Bajracharya makes it through school and into the career of her choice. She's certainly earned it and the global banking sector could use a little divine intervention these days. 



A South Asian love story takes a twist

The controversy surrounding the pending marriage between an Indian tennis player Sania Mirza and Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, which Saba Imtiaz covered for FP last week, has grown larger -- and more absurd -- in recent days. An Indian woman, Ayesha Siddiqui, has claimed Malik is already wedded to her, allegedly having betrothed her in a phone marriage (nikah) in 2002. Malik and Mirza held a joint press conference Monday to clear up the confusion, but it seems the matter is not so black-and-white:

Over the weekend, Malik admitted in newspaper interviews he had developed a friendship over the Internet with Siddiqui in 2002 and then married her after they exchanged photographs.

But he said the ceremony was invalid because the photographs Siqqiqui had sent him were of someone else. "I was made to believe the girl in the photograph was the one I was speaking to," he said. "The truth is, I haven't, to this day, met the girl in the photographs Ayesha sent me."

Malik is cooperating with police in an ongoing investigation. Siddiqui has claimed that Malik offered money to keep her quiet, and threatened to kill her if she went public with her story.

The proposed-union between Malik and Mirza has been relatively well received in Pakistan -- and not so favorably in India.